Advent 2014 – Devotion 6

You are going to die. I am going to die. Everyone we know is going to die. Every person is born and every person dies.

The question is not will we die, but how will we die. A recent article in the paper gives the odds of certain causes of death. Are you afraid of flying? Apparently, there is a one in 8,335 chance that you will be killed in an airplane accident. So, maybe it is time to give up air travel? Maybe we are afraid of being struck by lightening. It happens, especially here in Pinellas County. Statistics tell us we have a 1 in 135,666 chance of being struck by lightening. So, maybe it’s time to stay in during a storm? It almost seems foolish to try to avoid something that is so unlikely.

What about guns? Are you afraid of being shot? Well, you have a 1 in 6,492 chance of being killed by an accidental firearm discharge. And a 1 in 355 chance of being killed in a firearm assault, and a 1 in 203 chance of being killed by a self inflicted gunshot. There is a way to prevent that. Don’t have a gun and you won’t die from a self inflicted gunshot wound. Gun control and gun safety measures could significantly decrease the risks of dying from a gunshot. So, there actually are ways to lessen the chances of a death involving a gun.

So, what are the most frequent killers? We have a 1 in 7 chance of dying from heart disease or cancer. We have a 1 in 30 chance of dying from a stroke. We have a 1 in 57 chance of dying from diabetes. These are all health issues that can be significantly addressed through diet, exercise, and medication. There are effective ways of lowering the chances of dying from these conditions.

When we look at these causes of death and the odds, we see that there are ways that we can significantly reduce the risks of death through our choices and behaviors. But, yes, there is still that 1 in 562,042 who will die from a spider bite.

Advent and the weeks before Christmas can be a very busy time. We can become overwhelmed by activities and tasks and gatherings that are supposed to be a source of joy. We can be stretched thin by the financial pressures of the season. We can become stressed by the many obligations and demands that we face. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have NOTHING against being busy. I agree with the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I like to be busy and active.

So for me, the question this season (and all year round) is not to be busy or not to be busy. I like to be busy. The area for reflection is more around what am I busy doing? Is it something I believe is important? Does what I am doing reflect my values? Am I occupied in ways that are consistent with my commitments and interests?

I may decide that I will not fly, to avoid being that 1 in 8,335 killed in an airplane crash. But wouldn’t my efforts be better spent on healthy diet and exercise to lessen the likelihood of dying from cancer or heart disease or diabetes?

For reflection: Do the activities you are involved in this season reflect your values and commitments? Are you involved in gatherings and events that reflect what is truly important to you? What can you do to avoid finding yourself in situations that are not consistent with who you want to be and what you care about?

Prayer: Life can be so rich and full. Every day is a gift. Opportunities for joy, delight, and service abound. We pray for the grace to be aware and discerning about what we do. May our choices be life-giving to us, to others, and to the world. This is how Jesus lived and we are grateful for his example. Amen.

For the full chart, “Which One Will Get You?”, compiled from a 2014 National Safety Council report, see the Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 23, 2014, Opinion.

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